Five years ago, my first tech company was acquired. Two years ago, the acquirer launched an IPO. As the former Chief Strategy Officer, I ended my time at the company with a signatory bell ringing at the NASDAQ. Until that point, my life had moved quite swiftly without much vacation, only letting up to marry my high school sweetheart and raise my son.
After a failed attempt at a vacation, I dove right back into the startup world. I love the energy of startup life. But more importantly, I love the promise of solving a real problem and improving the world in a tangible way. So this time around, I want to build something truly great and enduring – not just a billion-dollar business, but a household brand that delights customers, creates beautiful experiences, and employs an inspired, world-class team who’s in it for the long haul.
When building a company, you want to work for long-term, the first decision to make is what market to attack. Opportunity cost is incredibly high, so it’s important — no, critical — to select an industry ripe to support what you want to build. Here are five tips for selecting a market for your startup:
Attack a problem that you are passionate about solving. When you make the decision to move forward, building a company is a massive commitment; it is something you live and breathe. Without passion to carry you through the long, lonely nights, you don’t stand a chance.
Don’t reinvent the wheel.
There’s no need to focus on inventing a new market. Instead, try looking for an environment where established competitors have shown the space can be monetized and operate in a model that allows new entrants to do things differently, if not better.
Consider social, local and mobile.
There are many reasons why a startup should fail. I want the wind at my back, and finding an opportunity where the trends support your efforts helps. Look for macro trends – for us, it was clear that the housing market would rebound, providing more “free” growth as we scaled.
Consider inorganic growth.
Organic growth is imperative for almost every startup these days. As a company matures, though, it is important to look at inorganic ways to accelerate growth. A good indication of this is when a market has both fragmented competitors and a fragmented customer base. Consolidation is a great platform to have as an asset.
Maximize your superpowers.
Focus on what you are uniquely great at so you can sustain a competitive advantage. For me, I knew I could deploy a business model in topics I know well: providing value to businesses, gaining deep insights through these relationships, and providing an exclusive solution to consumers that solves a big problem. I knew I liked business models that include both businesses and consumers, and models where an opportunity to build a virtuous circle exists (where more businesses provides us with consumers and consumers attract more business customers).
These five steps led us to create Porch, a social home improvement marketplace. It’s a space I’m incredibly passionate about, since it affects every household in the United States and touches the home, where life’s great memories happen. With a few competitors at scale, we are taking an extremely personal, relevant and trusted approach to disrupt the industry. It’s a massive market ($500B in spend) where consolidation opportunities are endless, and has a virtuous cycle of value by nature.
Where will these steps lead you?
Matt Ehrlichman is the CEO of Porch, where you can get inspired by the best home projects your neighbors have completed, see what any home project will cost, and find the best service professional your neighbors and friends recommend. Previous to Porch, Matt was a founder and CEO of Thriva (acquired by Active Network) and Chief Strategy Officer of Active Network (2011 IPO). Matt lives in Seattle, WA.
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